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May 16, 2017

It’s the NBA’s turn to once again reward its biggest losers

So … while other cities revel in the drama of the playoffs, fans in Philadelphia are left with a front row seat to another draft.

Tonight in Brooklyn, ping-pong balls will help determine the Sixers’ fortunes in next month’s NBA Draft. That comes only a short time after Philly was turned into a party zone by the NFL Draft, where the Eagles again picked up some pieces for the future. And that same weekend in the NHL Lottery, the Flyers surprisingly wound up with the second-overall pick in next month’s NHL Draft.

But, enough is enough with the whole lottery process and the emphasis on “winning” the draft.

The whole idea of rewarding losing organizations produced an entire generation of basketball fans in Philadelphia who saw months go by without witnessing a single victory – all in the hope of “winning” the lottery and hitting the jackpot in the draft.

In the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers went through about a decade of awful hockey before they finally hit gold with the first pick and Connor McDavid. That might turn into a chance to win multiple Stanley Cups, but it came at the expense of years without playoffs. And the Oilers only got McDavid through the luck of the lottery.

The suggestion here is that every sport – from Major League Baseball to the NFL, NBA and NHL – simply make the draft order a literal wheel of fortune. If you want, bring in Vanna White to spin the wheel, but give every team the same chance, and do it the actual night of the draft.

There is the vehicle of free agency to navigate the addition of talent.

There is simply no reason to continue to reward failure with guaranteed top spots in the draft. A winning organization doesn’t rely on lucky charms and loading the pocket of losers with shamrocks doesn’t make the playing field fair.


As the calendar reaches the middle of May, it is becoming more difficult to read the tea leaves on both the short- and long-term future of the Phillies. It is also getting difficult to read the culture under general manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin.

The recent series in Washington once again highlighted the ongoing issues with the bullpen but also featured an alarming interview with pitching coach Bob McLure who torched the game-calling ability of catcher Cameron Rupp. McLure was livid that Rupp continued to call for fastballs to Bryce Harper, who eventually launched a home run.

Certainly, Rupp has issues as a field general and his ability to frame pitches is particularly suspect. However, there doesn’t seem to be much upside to making this issue so public, and the very real downside is that the pitching staff loses any sort of confidence in their catcher.

There is also a recurring issue with a lack of hustle and lack of concentration at the plate. The culprits are some of the more important characters – Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco – while reliever Joaquin Benoit has openly questioned the deployment of the bullpen.

The Phillies made a semi-serious commitment to Mackanin with what amounts to a one-year extension to his contract. The future looks relatively bright with some high expectations for their prospects, but Klentak, Mackanin and ownership need to make sure a mission statement that stresses commitment is clear throughout the entire organization.


Legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can’t seem to keep his mouth closed when it comes to his opinions about President Donald Trump. It is always dangerous territory when you try to mix sports with politics – just ask Colin Kaepernick – but it appears Popovich is treading on safer ground on two accounts:

First, he is a terrific coach with a remarkable track record. More importantly, Pop likely also knows that his message will resonate in his locker room and he is more likely to be tightening his bond with his players than antagonizing anybody.

As for their fans . . . well, as usual, the only thing that matters to most fans is winning games. There are fewer areas of the country more liberal than New England, but nobody is calling for the heads of guys named Bill Belichick or Tom Brady or Robert Kraft for their friendships with Trump.

It’s a simple equation of winning equals latitude.


The Stanley Cup playoffs roll on and the NHL is once again facing the specter of its least entertaining team advancing deep into the spring. This time, it’s the Ottawa Senators who have used their sticky 1-3-1 defensive system to gum up the flow of the game.

Behind Guy Boucher’s system and the stingy goaltending of Craig Anderson, the Senators have managed the art of winning by a single goal. Of course, the slight margin of error can go the other way, but the Senators are tied at one game apiece with the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Ottawa has won six overtime games on their road to the conference finals, and Anderson is bringing back memories of Montreal’s great goalie Patrick Roy who won 10 consecutive overtime games en route to the 1993 Stanley Cup with the Canadiens.

Boring as they are, there is a bonus for local fans who can watch Cherry Hill product Bobby Ryan, who has provided pivotal offense. He was the star of Game One vs. Pittsburgh when he scored an overtime backhanded goal to put Ottawa out front of the series.

Still, the biggest local connection is likely in Nashville, where former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is attempting to achieve a hat trick of reaching the finals with three teams after previously advancing with the Flyers and winning it all with the Hurricanes.

He would be the first to do that since Mike Keenan, who reached the Cup finals with the Flyers and Blackhawks before winning it all with the Rangers in 1994.